Do The Right Thing
By Jeanne Fleming, Ph.D., and Leonard Schwarz

(MONEY Magazine) – Is It Okay To Hide Money From My Spendthrift Spouse?

Q I'm about to get a big bonus from my employer and plan to save the money in an account in my own name. My husband doesn't know about the bonus, and I don't plan to tell him. For the five years we've been married, his extravagance has prevented us from saving; if my bonus goes into our joint account, we'll end up with a home theater or a trip to Bali instead of a nest egg. But I am starting to wonder, Is it right to hide money from my husband?

Answer At the moment, you have one problem: your husband's refusal to save. If you go ahead with your plan, you'll have a second problem as well: betraying his trust. That's because no matter how worthy your intentions are, hiding a bonus large enough to take you to Bali amounts to outright deception. This doesn't mean you're ethically obligated to put the money in your joint account or to let your husband spend it as he pleases--you can still save the money in a separate account. But you are obligated to be honest about your decision.

If you need added inducement to come clean, consider that you'll have to report that income at tax time anyway. More important, by saving in secret, you're effectively giving up on having your spouse share responsibility for your family's financial future. Is that really what you want to do?

Your marriage deserves better. Unless your husband is gambling away the rent money or cashing in the baby's savings bonds to buy Armani suits, keeping mum about an important financial matter that affects you both would be unethical.

Must I Pay for a Deadbeat Neighbor?

Q My wife and I live in a six-unit condo complex in Sacramento. Recently, the homeowners voted to boost our earthquake insurance, which will raise homeowners fees by $85 a month. The problem: One homeowner, a widow, says she's can't afford the increase. We don't want to be callous toward our nice neighbor, but we also don't want to be underinsured. Help!

Answer As nice as your neighbor may be, she is not being fair to her fellow homeowners. Condos, like single-family homes, need to be adequately insured and maintained. It is the ethical--and legal--obligation of each owner to pay a pro rata share of the bill. If your neighbor were asking you to, say, postpone the increase until her tax refund arrives, you could probably accommodate her. What she can't expect you to do, however, is pay her share of the premium forever or risk being underinsured. That's not right.

So you are doing nothing wrong by increasing your earthquake insurance. That said, it would be nice if you and the other homeowners could lend your neighbor $500 to cover the first six months of her fee increases. That would give her some breathing room to try to solve her financial problem.